February 21, 2019

IS claims election rally bombing in Pakistan

14 July 2018, 11:51 | Devin Moran

Siraj Raisani

Siraj Raisani

At least 128 people, including Balochistan Awami Party leader Siraj Raisani, were killed in the blast that occurred during an election rally in Balochistan's Mastung in Pakistan amid tensions over former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter's arrival in the country.

Provincial Home Minister Umar Bangulzai confirmed to VOA that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

A suicide bomber killed 128, including candidate Siraj Raisani, in the southwest region of Baluchistan, while four others died in a strike in the northwest.

Two suicide bombers have killed 132 people including a political candidate, as violence continues before Pakistan heads to the polls.

In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party.

In a statement, the former president condemned the attack in which Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) candidate Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, his son and dozens of other political workers were killed and several others were injured.

"My younger brother has been martyred in the suicide attack", Haji Lashkari Raisani, another brother of Siraj Raisani, confirmed, adding that he was critically injured in the attack and succumbed to his injuries while being taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Quetta. Raisani is the brother of former Chief Minister of Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani.

The Mastung attack was the most lethal since Taliban militants assaulted Peshawar's Army Public School in 2014, killing over 150 people, mostly children, and one of the deadliest in the country´s long struggle with terrorism.

Earlier on Friday, four people were killed and 39 injured in an attack on the convoy of Akram Khan Durrani, ex-CM of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and leader of the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat-Ulema-Islam, in Bannu.

The attacks came hours before Sharif returned from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges, anti-corruption officials said.

Durrani belongs to an alliance of religious groups called Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which ruled the province between 2002 and 2008 under him.

Election violence by the Islamist militants is common in Pakistan.

Pakistani Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel gather in Mastung on July 13, 2018, following a bomb blast here at an election rally. Thousands flocked to his funeral the next day.

But security across the country has dramatically improved since government and military operations cleared large swathes of territory near the Afghan border in recent years.

In a video message on Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.

In a tweet, he said there seems to be a conspiracy to sabotage the vote.

"What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such a drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?" he told Reuters at the airport in Abu Dhabi as he waited for a connecting flight to Lahore.

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